Hoodie Allen is not a conventional rapper and his journey into poker has been anything but standard.
Barely eight months ago Hoodie Allen (real name Steven Markowitz) started playing the game with some friends.
Today he’s playing the biggest tournament in the world: the $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker Main Event.
“It’s really exciting,” he said.
“I came here and my intention was to play the Main Event no matter what, even though I knew that was pretty steep for my first foray into poker. Luckily I was able to get a good cash in Event 63 and it took the pressure off a bit. I just want to have fun and do my thing.”
Prior to the Main Event, Hoodie finished 35th in Event 63 to win $8,897, which was a nice start to his first WSOP ever.
Hoodie was working on some new music in Los Angeles when he got the idea to make a quick trip up to Las Vegas to play the WSOP.
“It was a good excuse for a work/vacation,” he said.
From Google to Billboard Top 10
Hoodie is a bit of an abnormality in the rap world as he graduated the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in marketing and finance and then went to work at Google.
While working at Google, Hoodie started making music on his off hours.
Hoodie found that he was staying up all night working music and eventually decided to quit Google to pursue a full-time music career.
It paid off as his first EP All American debuted at #1 on iTunes and #10 on the Billboard 200 in 2012.
Since All American, Hoodie released a series of successful records including most recently Happy Camper, which peaked at #2 on the iTunes charts.
His stage name is a play on famous filmmaker Woody Allen as his childhood nickname was Hoodie.
Hoodie Picks Up Poker Fast
Hoodie started playing poker about eight months ago after he was introduced to the game by some of his actor and rapper friends.
“I had a home game with friends and I got my ass kicked,” he said.
Hoodie Allen in the thick of the 2016 WSOP.
“So I decided that I didn’t want that to happen anymore and got really interested in it. It become a passion of mine or a side hobby.”
Quite often new players are drawn to the competitive nature of poker but there were a couple different factors that Hoodie found interesting about the game.
“I think I’m really analytical,” he said.
“I really like math. That aspect of the game definitely intrigued me. Also staring into people’s souls and making soul reads. Just being at the table. The physical part of the game.
Hoodie lives in New York city so Foxwoods and Borgata were never that far away if he wanted to play a quick tournament.
“I just watched a lot, read a lot, tried to be a sponge and learn as much as I could,” he said.
“I really like live poker. I’m not really a cash player. I like the tournaments and somehow don’t mind just sitting here and being patient and focused for 12 hours at a time. It works for me.”
Looking to Make Some Noise at WSOP
Nelly at the 2011 WSOP
Hoodie is hardly the first rapper to show an interest in poker. Nelly, Ja Rule and Kool Shen are among the most famous artists who made the journey to the WSOP.
In fact in the midst of the poker boom there was an entire TV show dedicated to rappers playing poker called Hip Hop Hold’em.
“I’ve heard about it,” said Hoodie in regards to the show.
“My impression was that it was guys betting with like eight-high on every street. I’m hoping to buck that trend and represent for the rappers in a positive way and get deep in this event.
Hoodie heads out on a European tour in August and September but for the moment he’s focused entirely on poker.
“I came out with an album in January and I’m hoping to put another one out before the end of this year,” he said.
“So when I’m not throwing my money away at the table that’s what I’m focused on.”